Sunday, December 21, 2014

Somehow Animals Know

Sometimes animals just know what you need.  When I went out for evening feed tonight, it was with leftover anger about a family issue.

After I put hay in the shed for the gang and and was replenishing shavings, Luigi came over and just stood at my side.  Because I was already bent over by the shavings bag, we were now face-to-face. While I very softly rubbed the sides of his face, he stood quietly.

It was just what I needed to release some of that tension.

What a good guy.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Oh, Norman

A wee bit of excitement when I came home from our own Davisburg Candle Factory this afternoon close to dusk. Norman, the escapee from next door, greeted me in our driveway.  Uh oh.
 I had to continue down to the house so I could notify the neighbor (of all times not to have my phone on me).  While I waited for the neighbor to come, donkeys were fed.

At first the girls were unconcerned about Norman's presence near to their yard.  But Luigi, ever the protector, was uneasy.
You can see Norman on the left about midway up on the photo above.  Luigi is keeping a sharp eye on the beast.  Then Luigi became agitated, which got the girls all spooked and everyone was running around quite excited.  I calmly told them everything was OK and eventually they resumed dinner.

I waited in the driveway to make sure Norman was rescued before he wandered into the road.  I must say he was a little intimidating.  He's a big boy and I don't know my way around steers.  Because he keeps escaping the neighbor has hinted he may be in the freezer soon.  I hope not.
A mug shot of Norman on the correct side of the fence - what a gorgeous face.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Saying Good-bye

My beloved horse doesn't hurt anymore.  He's not stiff and his back hip works the way it should.  He's head of the herd again and can part the waters by laying his ears back.  And he can gallop the hills of the pasture with mane flying.

It was time to say good-bye today and my heart is breaking.  We've been companions for 24 of his 30 years. He was my first horse and he may be my last.  Two other horses have taught me lessons about riding and when its time to let go of an unhealthy partnership, but Natural gave me the best gift -- love, friendship, and trust.

Of course I was there today to tell him it was OK and that I knew he was tired.  He has leaned on me in the past few months to help him and I know he trusted me. I hope I was able to reassure him.

He was my "love potato" and somehow the world doesn't seem right without him in it.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Donkey Faces to Charm

(photo courtesy of my son who was filling their water trough and caught this)

From left to right:  Luigi, Francesca, Gabriella

Monday, November 24, 2014

Update to the Bedding Debate

On April 7 of this year I voiced some thoughts about the pros and cons of pellet bedding.
I have found that where I live (southeastern Michigan) there's a small window of opportunity to use the bedding before the cold temps don't allow for effective breakdown of the pellets. (I don't use bedding in the summer months since they don't need a cushion from the ground temperature.) Case in point, about a week ago the temps were mid-to-high 20's and it took longer for the bedding to transition to a fine material.  I thought, OK, it's time to switch to shavings.
It happened that our local Tractor Supply was having a sale so I made sure to swing by to purchase more bags.  I caught the eye of a salesclerk to ask about fine vs flake.  Turns out she's a horse owner and said she puts the pelleted bedding underneath the shavings to allow for better urine soakage (yea, just made that phrase up).  I must have had a quizzical look on my face because she said, yup, uses that method for all eight stalls.

Well, I did not get more bags of pellets because I wasn't convinced it would be a very comfy bed situation.  Those pellets are hard!

Anyone out there tried this personally.  Would be very interested in your opinion.
But for the time being these three donks will be sleeping on shavings.

Monday, November 17, 2014

More Hay Comin' In

Our hay supply was running low.  A quick trip down the road to our hay supplier was in order.

Its about time to put in a big order to last most of the winter, but that will have to wait a bit.

Denali, a next door neighbor, was quite curious and viewed the entire unloading procedure.

I have no idea how this photo appeared but thought it had some pizazz all its own. 

Donkeys were allowed to roam while we cleaned up.

Fran asked for, and was granted a close-up.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mud, Mud Go Away

Oozy, slippery, boot-sucking mud.
Right in front of the barn.

Nobody likes it, not me, not the donks.

I kept waiting for it to dry up, but no dice.

I tried to provide remedial relief by throwing soiled shavings, but that was like throwing a thimble full of water into the ocean.
Rick says, "Gotta dig it up and move it out."  OK.

Friday, November 7, 2014


Since I'm usually the earlier riser in our house, my first job upon descending the stairs is to fight off two black dog-beasts demanding breakfast.  Occasionally I make them wait for me to start my tea, but its easier to get them out of the way, literally.  After they've had their morning ablutions, we all sit down for some quiet reading time.  I love the quiet of the morning to delve into a book.

Then its time to feed three bellowing donkeys.  Into the mudroom to don coat and boots as two dogs sit and stare.  The next step is tricky.  No matter how many times we review, Gunner forgets.  You have to sit and wait for me to open the door, get outside and give the command that you may follow through after me.  Dudley was introduced to this concept in obedience school a few years ago and usually listens well, but Gunner...sweet Gunner, ah well.

Once the command is given, one dog promptly rushes top speed out the back garage door to investigate who-knows-what, while the other rushes to the cat's litter box.  Sweet delights it contains. Finally everyone gathers at the front of the garage.  I swing my bike into action to cruise down the driveway to three awaiting donkeys who swear they're starving, every...darn...morning.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pumpkin Treat For Three Donkeys -- Fooled Ya

Pictures of horses, pigs and other manner of livestock enjoying meals of pumpkin have been jumping out at me lately.  "Of course!", I said. "Three little donkeys would be thrilled to chomp on a delectable bit of orange treat."

Preparations are made.

Seeds removed.
Pumpkin quartered.
(One for each donk and one for a special horse)


Yea, sure.  Fooled again.
This is the photo of three donkeys having sniffed and rejected pumpkin.  Walked, nay, ran off.

About an hour later it was time for hay and I was pleased to see some interest -- briefly.

And then we were right back to ignoring it.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Intimidating Cranes and Loony Hens

Allow me to digress from donkeys for yet another post to show you the abundance of wildlife in the area.

We have some neighborhood sandhill cranes that wander from house to house and scare the britches off me when they saunter next to a 50-mile an hour road around the corner.  They are stately, single-minded, and a little intimidating.  Yes, they stand between four and five feet tall.  They were in the pasture sharing space with three donks a couple of years ago and I wasn't sure what to do.  I finally chose the path of least resistance and just kept an eye on the situation.  No one was bothered by the new company.

And then there are the guinea hens next door that wander everywhere.  In the road, in our driveway...  A large bunch of babies (yes, bunch is the technical term) appeared this spring and, surprisingly, most seem to have survived cars and predators. They do drive me crazy when I'm trying to get around them on the driveway (as in the photo below).  They're not the brightest bulbs.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Autumn in Michigan

Fall brings... colors that dazzle

...donkeys with woolly coats 

...turkeys by the roadside

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Blogging Audience -- A Puzzlement

When one blogs using the blogger platform (did I say that right), one is treated to a statistical analysis of one's readership.
And it's a puzzlement to be sure.

If I examine my audience from the past week, my statistics indicate most readers are coming from the Ukraine, followed closely by the U.S., then France and Canada.

If I examine the past month's audience, my statistics indicate most readers are coming from the U.S., followed by the Ukraine, then France and Turkey.


A blog on donkeys -- the Ukraine?
Yes, a puzzlement.

Now if I examine my all time audience stats, here is the ranking from highest to lowest:
U.S., Ukraine, Russia, Germany, Canada, Turkey, S. Korea, France, Latvia, China.

I'm repeating myself, but really??  Latvia??

This just makes me smile.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Decisions That Break The Heart

Natural, a chestnut Standardbred, came into my life for $250 24 years ago.  The vet who looked him over thought he was six or seven years old.  That makes him about 30.  And I’m about to lose the boy.

It didn’t dawn on me until I was talking to the U.S. Animal Nutritional rep (now known as Vetri Science) that those horse owners who live in warm climes don’t automatically calculate the wear and tear of winter weather on their equines.    (This rep and I have talked at length about our horses and she has been a kind ear listening to my emotional  exercise in coming to terms with putting my horse down.)   And she was the one who fine-tuned that thought. That those of us in cold weather states have decisions to make that aren’t always easy.

Natural will not be able to face the snow and ice of a Michigan winter.  As much as I keep mentally protesting, I’m coming to grips with that statement.

And so, if I lived in Florida, I would probably not be faced with this decision.   At least not right now.  Sometimes life doesn’t seem fair.

It has been excruciating  this summer as I have tried modality after modality thinking I can “fix” him.  And nothing has worked.  Not massage, not chiropractic adjustments with acupuncture, not healing herbs, not pain relieving essential oils, not pharmaceuticals.  Nothing.

How can this be, I keep asking myself.

As fall weather has now come into southern Michigan I realize that no miracle is imminent.  While we were experiencing temps in the 70’s, I was able to pretend there was lots of time until inclement conditions.  Not so anymore.  And its breaking my heart.

I’ve thought about which experience is harder – going through a medical crisis and having the decision to put your horse down made for you, or this sad drawn out “waiting”.  I’ve been through the first;  my quarter horse got mauled by dogs several years ago.  This seems harder.  But then again, Natural was my first. 

I hope, dear readers you will continue to lend your support as the time draws nearer and bear with me as I use this blog as a vehicle of remembrance.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Cattle > Stall Mat Drilling > Green Hay

As I started my stroll out to the donkeys (well actually I rode my bike), my sole intention was to show you the difference in hay between the old batch and the new bales.  But I got sidetracked.

First I had to say hi to the boys who live next door.  That's Norman in the middle.
The steer on the left, who's name I don't know, is the brand new addition to their menagerie, and  mooed constantly for the first 24 hours in his new home.  Thankfully, he seems to have settled in.

When I got to the shed I discovered Rick had redrilled holes in the stall mats to allow for urine seepage.

We were delinquent this year in not cleaning out the holes in the spring;  I recently pointed out to him that holes were clogged and no draining was occurring.

Rick came up with the suggestion to put holes in the mats two or three years ago and it works quite well if we stay on the ball.

I use the term "we" loosely.  This part of donkey maintenance is always his job.

You can see how three little donkeys always use the right side to do their #1 business.
The area is darker than normal - Rick cleaned the area with the hose before beginning. This makes it look a little grimier than usual.
And, you can see daylight through that back portion of the right wall. Guess who was digging outside of the shed.  Could it be G-u-n-n-e-r?? The prince of doggy diggers...

Three little faces are mesmerized as I move around clicking shots.

Finally, I get to the hay to show you the huge difference in color.

As you can see, the bale on the left is much much lighter.  Same farmer, first cutting as usual, purchased in June.  Could it have been left from 2013?

The donks had been leaving remnants of their hay meals before we brought the new batch home.  Now they consume every sweet morsel.

Yum, yum, yum.  As I've mentioned, its wise to separate a pile for Luigi (in the background) so there's less posturing during mealtime.  Poor Luig always gets the short stick.
Dudley waits for me to finish the photo session so we can get back to the house!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

DIY Milk Can Table Completed!

If you recall, dear readers, I started a milk can table project earlier this summer (see post of 7/6/14).

This was the look I was trying to duplicate.

After I painted the donated milk can (from dear friend Bev) it was Rick's task to try to figure out where to purchase an already cut piece of wood. After all he is a carpenter.  Well, the project got bogged down at that point.  Rick was striking out finding something affordable and of the right size.  He told me of some at Lowe's but felt the largest option was too small.  He kept looking.

Other life events came along (like retiring!) and the milk can table stayed on the back burner.

We host an annual bocce party and lo-and-behold a couple of days prior to the party (during the bustle of cleaning the house) Rick appears with a completed table.  Shockeroo!

 He ended up using the largest piece available at Lowe's, stained it red with lots and lots of polyurethane on top of the stain.  For a split second I was silent as I had envisioned painting the top to match the can.  But as I continued to look, I realized he had chosen the right finish.

The grain of the wood is set off so well with that red glow.

And of course two dogs have to inspect as well.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Carrots In Abundance = Joyful Donkeys

Its that time of year.   #2 carrots (I guess you could call them rejects) are ready to be scooped up at the Farmer's Market.  I go as often as I can to score a hit for donkeys and for us -- grocery story versions don't come close in sweetness.

The crate is secured in my car trunk -- I've left carrots (in a crate and a bucket WITH a lid) in the garage and invariably either dogs get into them or donks do on one of their walkabouts.

The farmer always tops them off for me so you can see donkeys, Natural and horses next door have been enjoying them.  And of course the dogs.  They can hear me cutting up carrots from a mile away and race to my side in the kitchen.  And when I'm handing out sweet treats to three donks, dogs raise their voices in protest until I share.

Oh my, croons Luigi, they're so so good.

Delectable morsels soon disappear between gentle but greedy lips.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Scenes from the horse farm

Some days when I'm visiting Natural (the best horse in the world), I am determined to snap portraits of my boy, who is on the decline.  And some days I don't want to be encumbered with the photography burden.  Just carrots and hugs.

Well, a few days ago I was in the photo mood and here you have it.

While hiking to the far back 40 to find the boy, I approached a large flock of geese who was sharing grass delectables with the regulars.  I totally disrupted the peace and quiet and off they flew.

If you look over the hill, past the tree line, that's where the boy was grazing.  Sometimes going out to the farm is a cardio workout, but its heaven for the horses.

My beautiful, beautiful boy

Don't you just love the sight of a barn.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Donkey Shed Friendssssss

For a least a couple of years a little garter snake has made the hay bales in the donkey shed his home.  Often I have lifted up a flake and there he'll be taking a nap.  Yes, sometimes he startles me with a quick slithery exit, but I feel comfortable with his presence.

And then there were three.

Apparently my little snake friend either corralled some pals into joining him or he hooked up with his lady friend and started a family, because now there are three slithering bodies in the hay.   I'm not squeamish around mice or frogs or snakes, but I have to confess uncovering three of them unnerves me.  I'm trying to get over it.

Recently it was "molting season" for my little friends.

And then there was a third skin down alongside a bale.

Yes, its a little harder to see.

Isn't it interesting to see the variations in markings in the close-up above.

Although I will embrace most manner of critter, I'm putting my foot down at salamanders.  We use an old shallow wheelbarrow bed as a cover for the bigger manure wheelbarrow (primarily so the dog can't feast on it, but also to keep out the rain). Recently I had left it uncovered and when I approached the big wheelbarrow saw a salamander in the empty upturned cover.  I helped him out by tipping the cover but no, no, no I was NOT going to pick him up.  Then Rick tells me that as we were preparing for a Labor Day bocce party, he discovered THREE salamanders in the court.  OK, I say YUCK!  The thought of picking them up gives me the creeps.  

So a shout out to the salamanders in the vicinity.  I have no problem being neighbors as long as you keep a wide berth.  Thank you for your attention to this matter.